Local news for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets

Reality of Youth Services activities begins to emerge from Council smokescreen

Details of the dubious activities of Lutfur Rahman’s Youth Services team slowly seep out from the Town Hall yet many questions remain unanswered – one of them being if the officers responsible for Youth Services, Andy Bamber and Dinar Hossain, are being called to account?

Andy Bamber was Service Head for Safer Communities, Crime Reduction Services, Communities, Localities and Culture.

Dinar Hossain was Head of Connexions and Youth Services and so was directly responsible for running Youth Services. In turn his boss, Andy Bamber, was responsible for ensuring that Dinar Hossain was doing his job properly.

LW understands that Dinar Hossain has left the employ of the Council and Andy Bamber is on long-term sick leave.

The diagram below illustrates the chain of command when Youth Services were having their fun and games.

Tower Hamlets Youth Services - senior management structure

Tower Hamlets Youth Services – senior management structure

Andy Bamber & Dinar Hossain

In May 2016 LW reported on the first public admission that there has been massive wrongdoing by Youth Services personnel while Tower Hamlets First were in charge. In that post we named two Council officers who, from our understanding, were responsible for Youth Services during the time the various dodgy doings were done.

The Council’s Audit report seems to indicate that neither of these individuals were doing their jobs.

So why is there no mention of Andy Bamber or Dinar Hossain in the Audit report? Or are Council officers free to earn their money however they like knowing they will never be held to account?

Some questions

It is believed that Mr Bamber has been on paid sick leave since May this year.

Despite being ill, Moley understands that Mr Bamber attended the leaving do of Steve Halsey his former boss. How come?

Odd huh? If Mr Bamber was being properly monitored by the Council he would not be eligible for sick pay if he is able to attend a leaving party.

So maybe the the paid sick leave thing is just a way to quietly pay Mr Bamber off? Obviously we would love to talk to Mr Bamber to see what he says but to date have not been able to contact him. If you are reading this Andy please get in touch!

Some more questions

Apart from asking Mr Bamber about his sick leave the Council also needs to answer a few questions too.

  • When did Mr Bamber last have a formal sickness review?
  • How many formal sickness review meetings have been held?
  • What are the Human Resources procedures for long-term sickness?
  • Apparently Local Authority guidelines are that it is required to conduct a formal review of anyone on long-term sick leave on a regular basis, possibly fortnightly. Have these reviews been carried out in Mr Bamber’s case?
  • Mr Bamber’s manager is required to speak to him on a weekly basis. Has this been done?

The purpose of these reviews is to check that the person in question is still ill and that the council can make necessary and reasonable adjustments to help them back to work. Which any organisation that cares about its employees would surely do.

Official Council bullshit response

When LW started writing this news story we had not received replies to the above questions from Tower Hamlets Council. We have asked similar questions before and the replies were meaningless. We expected the same this time round.

24 hours later…. the Council response.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: 

“We are unable to  release confidential, personal data about staff members.”

 Background

 Will Tuckley, Chief Executive, is covering the role (CLC) whilst the current organisational review is progressed.’

See what we mean? Why on earth did we wait 24 hours for that single line of complacency and arrogance?

Mushrooms

The Council may not be able to release confidential, personal data about staff members but it seems pretty damn good as using inane lines such as the one above as an excuse to treat the residents of Tower Hamlets as if they were mushrooms – keeping them in the dark and feeding them on bullshit.

Sick leave or pay off?

So in the absence of any information of any type from the Council ‘communications team’ let us progress with what we have found out and what we can work out from our findings. None of this is rocket science.

LW consulted some of our now numerous local authority experts and they are all of the opinion that if these sick leave reviews have stopped taking place then maybe, just maybe, there is no intention of bringing Mr Bamber back into Tower Hamlets Council at all – so all the sick leave payments are really just pay off money.

LW does not know exactly how much Mr Bamber got paid for overseeing Youth Services and making sure failing to ensure that everything was shipshape and ticketyboo, but someone at his level would probably enjoy a salary of around £100,000 a year.

24 Lines of Enquiry

After some intense burrowing over recent months the Wapping Mole now has 24 different lines of enquiry (LOE) into odd goings on during the tenure of the previous Mayor and over half of these relate directly or directly to Youth Services.

These are not enquiries into one or two people fiddling expenses.

The scale and scope of Youth Services possible wrongdoings are vast.

As our newsroom is stretched to the limit at the moment we cannot publish all we know today but we soon will. Promise. Because no-one else will.

Here are some of the facts we can publish at the moment:

  • Seemingly unfettered payment card spends of around £400,000
  • Youth Service staff delivering services but not on the Council payroll
  • Staff claiming hundreds of hours in overtime that they never worked
  • Youth Clubs and Projects that simply did not exist
  • Youth Clubs where no-one ever attended
  • Payments by Youth Service staff to suppliers that did not exist
  • Five Youth Service managers officers authorising over £1,200,000 of “AP1 voucher” payments in just over five months
  • In excess of 100 Council investigations into Youth Services staff
  • Not one person charged with any criminal activity

The bleeding obvious question is how all of the above (and more) was allowed to happen. Odd, innit?

As LW knows that everyone loves a good audit report let us revisit the one recently submitted to the Council’s Audit Committee.

On page 52 we have:

“The Risk Management Team had received and investigated a number of allegations of irregularity and fraud relating to the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 that raised concerns over the effectiveness of the control environment operating with Youth Service.

The key areas reviewed were: Governance; Financial Management and Control; Human Resource Management and Monitoring and Inspection of Youth Service Delivery.”

The Audit report then goes on to provide some of its findings which LW covered in this post a week or two back.

The glaring omission from the report is any mention of any questions or any investigations into how those in charge of Youth Services under Rahman allowed the various dodgy activities to happen.

Not a word.

Odd that.

Another oddity is the disparity between the audit report relating to DBS checks on Youth Services personnel and a response from Tower Hamlets to Freedom of Information request 638965, relevant extracts of which are shown below.

(We cannot link to the original FOI response as is our custom because the Council’s Freedom of Information disclosure log on their website is broken. Has been for ages. Maybe they will fix it one day? Instead here is a link to a copy we already have.)

FOI 638965 Response

DBS checks on Tower Hamlets Youth Service and Contractors

Q: Have any employees, contractors or others paid from the public purse at London Borough of Tower Hamlets Youth Service (THYS) worked without DBS checks being applied for, expired or completed?

None. However, there will always be staff whose DBS certification expires during their employment and the renewals are processed while they remain in employment. It is a 3 year rolling programme and supplemented by spot check reviews for compliance.

Q: How many people working for THYS have been working without DBS checks, for how long and what were the reasons for these lapses?

None. See above.

Q: What internal correspondence has taken place at LBTH concerning lapses in DBS checks within THYS and alleged criminal activity by THYS?

Staff are regularly written to prior to DBS checks reaching renewal date and are sent chase up letters thereafter. There has been no allegation of criminal activity concerning DBS checks.

That’s pretty clear then. Pity it’s not true.

Page 52 Audit Committee report 20 September 2016

Overall Findings and Governance

“Cases were identified where either duplicate or excessive claims were made for hours worked, and the system for recruitment had been compromised by either being worked round or controls around DBS checks not being applied.”

Human Resource Management

“Our key findings highlighted individuals were delivering youth service provision without being formally on the Council’s payroll or DBS checks being undertaken.”

Compare and contrast

An FOI response dated September 2015 states that no Youth Services staff have worked without DBS checks and an internal audit report covering the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15 states that the DBS system was ‘being worked around’ and or Youth Services staff were delivering services without DBS checks.

Apart from anything else the two conflicting statements destroy the accepted belief that Freedom of Information requests provide a response that is either honest or truthful.

If a FOI response can be incorrect then why should we trust the contents of the Audit committee report? We should not is the simple answer. Without residents being able to trust Council documents this administration remains a black box as much as the last one.

What happens inside the black box is only known to those inside and the notion of transparency and openness is purely an illusion.

You pay for this black box either through central government funding from your income tax or local authority council tax.

In other words you are paying people to lie to you. Lying by omission, but still lying.

LW did not submit FOI 638965 and we do not know who did but we would like to thank them for their request. From the wording of the questions it is apparent that the requestor knew that something stank in Youth Services. The stink is still there.

LW Comment

The truth of what happened during the administration of Lutfur Rahman will eventually be in the public domain.

It is clearly in the public interest for everyone to know what happened and why and LW will continue to do what it can to expose these events.

Youth Services was at the heart of this.

If the authorities remain silent then they in turn will have to justify their inaction.

We have also been surprised by the extraordinarily high level of interest into the story LW broke about Cllr. Shahed Ali pleading guilty to housing fraud.

The little picture below shows why we have been surprised.  But then Cllr. Ali is but one man.

shahed-ali-fuss

 

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